Role of the family therapist

Beels and Ferber,(34) among the first observers to consider various roles for family therapists, divided them into 'conductors' and 'reactors'; this differentiation remains useful since it transcends schools. The therapist as conductor is represented in the work of practitioners like Satir, Bowen, and Minuchin. Satir (35) is a good illustration. With her emphasis on communication, she espoused the notion that the family therapist is a teacher who shares expertise in optimal communication by setting goals and the direction of treatment. In her case, she guided the family to adopt a new form of language to resolve communication problems, which she saw as the root of their troubles. Additionally, the therapist instils confidence, promotes hope for change, and makes them feel comfortable in the process. In Satir and fellow conductors, the therapist is an explicit authority, who intervenes actively in implementing change.

The therapist as reactor plays a different role by resonating with, and responding to, what the family manifests. Therapists in the psychoanalytical tradition belong to this group, as do what Beels and Ferber label 'system purists'. Typically, the therapist shares observations about patterns of interaction and relating that emerge during the sessions. We illustrate this below when describing the Milan approach. (12)

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